FOOTBALL IS A YOUNG MAN'S GAME ONLY? THINK AGAIN AS THE OLD GUARD STORM THE SCORING CHARTS
With European football taking yet another break for the international matches coming up, it is worth noting how the leagues and players are faring so far. \
Most people are familiar with the obvious storylines- Barcelona’s falling empire, Lionel Messi yet to score in Ligue 1, Napoli on a seven-match win streak in Serie A, and the same old myriad of teams challenging for the Premier League.
Benzema, Lewandowski, and Haaland are in a tight race for the European Golden Boot 🔥 pic.twitter.com/BuGk8Q9SEQ
— International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) September 28, 2021
However, it is when one takes a look at the top goal getters for the season across these leagues that it gets interesting. Five of Europe’s top ten scorers till now are in their 30s. Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, Jamie Vardy and more have all started their respective campaigns brilliantly which raises the question- just how are they doing it still?
HUNGRY AS ALWAYS
One common factor that unites all of the names is the fact that they are striving for excellence as they had always done. It does not matter how old they are or in what stage of their career, their ambition and desire to remain among the most elite of marksmen stands out.
Dzeko is the first player since Ronaldo (1997/98) to score at least 6️⃣ goals in Inter’s first 7️⃣ games.
Absolutely FLYING this season. ⚫️🔵
📊 stat via Opta pic.twitter.com/rBxlc7ICZ3
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) October 2, 2021
Edin Dzeko is 35-years-old, scored only seven times last season from 27 games. This year he has six goals already in a new team under a new coach. Coming to Inter to replace Serie A MVP Romelu Lukaku is no mean feat but Dzeko has shown few signs of nervousness.
His ability to find the back of the net, play around his attacking teammates and remain highly alert in the penalty area has allowed him to adapt his game with time in a relatively young Nerazzurri side.
🇵🇹 Five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League:
⚽️ Most goals in history (136)
👕 Most appearances (178)
😮 Most goals in a season (17)
🤯 Most goals in knockout stages (67)
🔥 Only player to score in 11 straight games
🏆 Only player to score in 3 finals#UCL pic.twitter.com/SyRXiouyhH
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 29, 2021
Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous return back to Manchester United grabbed a lot of the headlines and the Portuguese phenom has wasted little time in getting back amongst the goals.\
Five in six games point to a man who is at the peak of his powers and knows exactly what to do to remain imperious. His work ethic has never been in question while the astonishingly low body fat coupled with the intense motivation of scoring has fueled the fire that still rages on.
Cristiano Ronaldo in the Premier League in September:
270 minutes played
26 touches inside the box
17 shots; av. distance of 14 yards out
7 shots on target
Man Utd’s POTM. 🔴 pic.twitter.com/Ac04jSVV7H
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) October 2, 2021
Though there have been some criticisms of his effect on the team’s play as a whole and whether they lose something further behind with Ronaldo playing, there is no doubt that his presence guarantees a set number of goals and gives everyone around him no space to be lax.
This trait is similar to all the strikers who have been banging goals in for fun. Vardy came from non-league football to win it all in England’s top-flight but still knows he has to keep on proving himself given the chance he has. Benzema has shown he can do it without Ronaldo and almost carried Real Madrid to the title last season on the back of his goals.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic became the 5th OLDEST scorer in Serie A with his goal today against Lazio 👴⚽️
He will most likely be in 2nd by the end of the season.
Eternal. ♾ pic.twitter.com/EmRUFdWusW
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) September 12, 2021
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the proverbial lion and at age 40, is far from finished as he showed while netting his first goal of the season against Lazio within seven minutes of coming on in his only appearance till date.
TEAM DEPENDS ON THEM
This goes without saying but when you are the top scorer of your team season after season, you cannot just stop or
\fall off the wheel dramatically. Lewandowski’s 41 league goals were a Bundesliga record last term and helped him win the European Golden Boot.
Lewandowski is the first European Golden Boot winner from the Bundesliga since 1972, He is also the first Polish🇵🇱 player to win this prize. pic.twitter.com/ky4Q3pXiD6
— Football Talk (@Football_TaIk) June 2, 2021
The next highest for Bayern Munich was Thomas Muller (11) followed by Serge Gnabry (10). Still, in a competition deprived league like this one, the Bavarians can hold up their own end even if Lewandowski slows his pace a touch, which he has not yet with seven goals in six games. No such advantage for Leicester City in the Premier League.
HE’S DONE IT! 🥳
Lewandowski has scored his 41st Bundesliga goal of the season, breaking the record set by Gerd Muller in 1971-72 👏 pic.twitter.com/RLPFf790F2
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 22, 2021
Every goal is crucial when you are a team fighting for European places like the Foxes were. They were in the top-four for much of the season before falling to fifth on the final day.
Nevertheless, even that finish owed much of it to Vardy and his relentless penchant for ruthless finishing which saw him bag 15 strikes to finish as their top scorer in the league.
— Premier League (@premierleague) July 16, 2020
Yes, Kelechi Iheanacho was not far behind with 12 goals but the Nigerian owed most of it to a late season burst after the new year. This season has provided a stark reminder of what happens when a team cannot have more than one capable goal scorer on a regular basis.
Vardy has six goals with the next highest being…one. Leicester currently are 13th and with their opponents having increased in terms of challenging for Europe, Vardy will need to keep his foot on the gas for now.
LEARNING WITH AGE
The brilliance of Benzema had not been truly appreciated for some time as he remained under the shadow of Ronaldo, However, the Frenchman has had to shoulder the goal scoring responsibilities alone for large parts of the past three seasons as his cohorts remain injured or out of form. 21, 21, and 23 goals has been established as the go-to guy for Los Blancos and this season, Benzema seems to have found another gear.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) October 4, 2021
Nine goals and seven assists in just eight games has seen him leading the European tally but what is even more exemplary is how they have come. Benzema has dribbled past lines of defenders, taken long range belters, and showed his aerial dominance to achieve all of it.
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) August 3, 2020
Like Benzema, his Italian counterpart Ciro Immobile has morphed his gameplay to suit the current times. Immobile is not the best striker one will encounter but his superb workrate combined with the willingness to chase every ball, hit every shot, and harass defenders constantly has seen him carrying Lazio for a number of years into positions of strength. He has begun dropping deeper to start attacks, pass more quickly and efficiently along with doing what he does best.
The veterans have been keeping up remarkable rates of consistency while the world is moving on to the next generation of superstars. But make no mistake, these “old” players have paved the way and continue leading the charge like they know best.